History Of NYC: From Trading Post to The Twin Towers

New York City is one of the most recognized cities in the world. It's known for its culture and diversity and as a financial center for the U.S. and countries across the globe. While it has grown to encompass all of these things today, NYC hasn't always been the grand city that the world has come to love. New York's evolution started in the 1600s, and the city has faced many challenges on the road to its many accomplishments. The city has been at the heart of a number of major events that have impacted history and changed the fate of not only the city but also the state, the country, and in some instances the world.

The Founding of New York (New Amsterdam)

In 1624, a colony called New Netherland was established by the Dutch West India Company. At the southern tip of this settlement, the Dutch governor purchased Manhattan in 1926 from the Manhattan tribe and called the area New Amsterdam. The transaction was not a smooth one, however, and there was much conflict between the natives and the colonists. The English took control of New Amsterdam in 1664 and renamed the area New York.

New York and the Revolutionary War

New York state played an important role in the Revolutionary War, and part of the state's Revolutionary history played out in and around New York City. The Battle of Long Island, the first major battle of the war after the Declaration of Independence was issued, led to a victory for the British, and this was followed by another triumph for the Redcoats at the Battle of White Plains. Colonial troops were forced to retreat across New Jersey and into Pennsylvania, ceding the city to the British. It wasn't until a year later that the tide of the war would turn at the Battles of Saratoga, and the British would hold New York City until the end of the war.

New York and the Civil War

Despite its history of being anti-slavery, New York's introduction into the Civil War was not an easy one. While people in the rest of the state supported the Union cause, many in NYC were against the idea of war, as they depended on Southern cotton and felt that the war was creating economic instability. New Yorkers would find another means of making money when the city took on an important role in the war and began to manufacture machinery needed to transport soldiers as well as the supplies of war. When faced with a draft, however, the city was divided again, and in 1863, this resulted in a riot that would last up to four days. But ultimately, New York City would rebound, and new factories would spring up as the economy and the war itself turned a corner.

Ellis Island

The United States is a land of immigrants, many of whom passed through Ellis Island. Located in New York Harbor, this small island was also known as Oyster Island and Gull Island by the Native Americans. It was the first federal immigration station, designated as such in 1890 by President Benjamin Harrison. People arrived in steamships, but not everyone aboard was sent to Ellis Island; predominantly, the third-class passengers and sick first- and second-class passengers were made to stop at the island for medical and legal inspection. The largest number of people to pass through Ellis Island in a year was 1.25 million immigrants in 1907. This record for the number of immigrants to the country was not surpassed for nearly 80 years. By 1924, Ellis Island was no longer used as an immigration station but as a place where war refugees, displaced people, and individuals with problematic paperwork were held. After 1954, Ellis Island officially closed.

9/11 and Modern New York

In 2001, New York City was the target of one of the most devastating terrorist attacks in the world. On Sept. 11, 2001, 19 agents of a terrorist group called al-Qaida hijacked four airliners, crashing two into the World Trade Center and one into the Pentagon. Passengers on the fourth hijacked aircraft fought back against the terrorists, forcing it to crash in an unoccupied field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The 9/11 attacks killed more than 2,600 people and led to the collapse of the World Trade Center's towers. This event, which altered the New York City skyline and redefined the nation and its policy of response to terrorism, launched a war in Afghanistan aimed at stopping al-Qaida and the Afghan rulers who supported them. Since then, New York has bounced back, rebuilding at the World Trade Center site and using federal aid to spark an economic recovery.

Popular Buildings and Attractions

Today, the city of New York is host to a large number of popular attractions. Sea traffic arriving here will be greeted by the Statue of Liberty, a French-built statue standing 151 feet tall on Liberty Island. A monument to freedom in America, it was designed starting in 1865 and erected in 1886.

The Empire State Building, on Fifth Avenue, was built in 1931 and stands 1,454 feet tall. It was the tallest building in New York City until the World Trade Center was built, and after 9/11, it regained its title until being surpassed by One World Trade Center. At one time, it was also the tallest building in the world. The Chrysler Building, at Lexington Avenue and 42nd Street, was built in 1930 and is another major landmark in the city, standing 1,046 feet tall. It was the largest building in New York and the world until it was surpassed by the Empire State Building.

One World Trade Center, built in 2013 and also known as the Freedom Tower, currently stands as the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere at 1,776 feet, and it is located on Fulton Street in Manhattan. And the 9/11 Memorial & Museum, a site dedicated to remembering the 9/11 disaster, is located at 180 Greenwich St. and features artifacts from the World Trade Center.